Education officials are trumpeting their support for a proposed revision of the state's tax code, a move that would pump at least $330 million into education.
In response to a recent query by telephone, members of the state board of education endorsed the tax overhaul, which was proposed by a gubernatorial commission headed by R. Robert Linowes. The telephone vote has yet to be affirmed at a regular public board meeting.
State School Superintendent Joseph L. Shilling said yesterday that several new programs hinge on the Linowes Commission proposals.
In particular, he cited a requirement for mandatory kindergarten attendance; mandatory school attendance to age 18; more computers in the schools, and additional training for teachers.
"There's not money there to do these things for next year, absent movement on the Linowes report," said Shilling.
Because of the state's budget woes, Shilling said, he expects to delay for a year legislation calling for extension of the mandatory school year to 200 days from 180 days.
That proposal, which would cost the state an estimated $53.3 million in its first year, was to have been phased in by the 1995 school year. But Shilling said the legislation probably will be introduced in the 1992 General Assembly and will delay the full phase-in of the proposal until 1996.
Shilling acknowledged the budget uncertainty facing all state departments.
"We're facing a situation where services are, in fact, being cut . . . to solve the budget problems that we currently have," said Shilling.
The superintendent, who met with Gov. William Donald Schaefer last Thursday, said he still did not know whether the state's budget shortfall will require any layoffs in the 1,400-employee education department.
Schaefer has proposed the layoff of 1,800 state employees to ease the deficit.
"Certainly if the 1,800 layoffs become a part of an overall state strategy, that's going to affect us, too," said Shilling.
He said education officials would not know until after the first of the year whether there would be cuts in education in the proposed fiscal 1992 budget.
But he said the department still is planning to go ahead with a number of initiatives next year.
The initiatives include a $32 million "challenge grant" program that would fund improvement plans at 100 schools having trouble meeting the state's performance standards.
Under that program, individual schools would apply for grants that could total an estimated $300,000 for a school with an enrollment of 400 to 450 students. Continued funding would depend on progress toward meeting the state standards.
But Shilling said the program could be phased in because of budget constraints and funded in full starting in fiscal 1993.
Other initiatives still on the agenda for this year are $6.6 million for 111 new pre-kindergarten sites around the state, plans for additional teacher training and the development of additional tests to measure how well students are mastering particular subjects.
The department will likely go ahead with the mandatory kindergarten proposal in the 1991 General Assembly, he said. Funding would not be necessary until the following school year.